The Role of Preventive Diplomacy in Addressing the Boko Haram Violent Campaign

Note on how to cite this journal:

Author, Date of the post, WMO Conflict Insight, Title of the post,  ISSN: 2628-6998, 

This study centred on “The Role of Preventive Diplomacy in Addressing the Boko haram Violent Campaign in Nigeria”. The rationale of the study was to evolve a mediating model that could reverse the deadly trend inflicted on the country by the members of Boko haram. The study was cast in an analytical process, through desk review, and participant observation. Following the findings made, the military defence has failed to halt the atrocities being committed by the members of the sect. There is a need to introduce the preventive diplomatic model into the strategy.


Since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914, the state has been besieged by countless destructive conflicts. In some cases, it has re-generated ancient animosities that have lingered on for decades. Most of the approaches given to these conflicts were reactionary, which were unable to find their footings beyond that. The role of preventive diplomacy sets the tone for Nigeria to consider new approaches and mechanisms in handling conflicts, not less the Boko haram conflict. It might appear difficult to apply mediation processes in a violent insurgency that has lingered on for a decade, however, it could reverse the current trend from the brink of war and avoid another decade of terrorist insurgency. This is a task that must be done in the interest of the sanctity of lives and the protection of property.


Preventive diplomacy is relatively a new field of study in academic discussions. The UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold was one of the first people to use the term “preventive diplomacy” in the academic circle. In his opinion, it was to keep conflicts been entangled in power rivalry (Kalha 2014, 1). Later, Boutros-Ghali further defined preventive diplomacy in his 1992 UN Report “Agenda for Peace”, as an action to prevent disputes from arising between parties, to prevent existing disputes from escalating in conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur (Kalha 2014, 2). Preventive diplomacy remains important throughout the whole spectrum of conflicts. Therefore, it is not a one-off practice that begins only in the early stages of a conflict. It concerns intrinsically to the circle of conflict and peacetime. Violent conflicts are better stopped than recovered and even when they start, it is better to reverse it than never.

Nigeria lies in the west part of Africa, with over 250 ethnic groups, accounting for not less than 500 languages. The country is one of the most multicultural societies in the world. Also, the country is richly endowed with natural and human resources; it is home to one of the world’s most religious countries. Religion occupies the prima facie of the socio-economic and political life of the people. The Boko haram campaign of Islamisation is better understood against the backdrop of the remnants of Islamic fundamentalism that had inflicted several atrocities in the northern part of Nigeria, from the Usman Dan Fodio invasion in 1804-1903 to the Maitatsine uprising in Kano state in 1980 and the frequent ethnoreligious violence in Kaduna and Plateau States which gave birth to the dreaded group called Boko Haram; not ignoring the theory of structural violence in areas of political, social and economic grievances, inequality, unemployment and ancient animosities that added inspiration to the fluid situation of the sect and the insurrection of groups around the world. Its official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’aawati wal-jihad: also known as ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’. The founder of the group Mohammed Yusuf was driven by the quest for a puritanical society. He mobilised supporters in the campaign for a free, just, and politically flourishing society. This was short-lived as he was killed in extrajudicial manoeuvring, leading to a full-blown insurgency. The government undermined the capabilities of the sects even when they had issued some demands for compensation to families of sects’ members killed. These issues were not attended to by the government. The demand by the sects should have been developed into an interest-based approach and not left at the positional approach which showed that it was bound to fail. The government rushed into declaring Boko haram a terrorist group in 2011, which gave the group international support and funding from its affiliate groups like Isil, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda, some Iranian elites among others (Maiangwa 2019, 8-9). The international community had cautioned that Boko haram was unlikely to be defeated on the battlefield alone, they stressed the need for a multidimensional response to tackle the drivers of insecurity and address the root causes of the violence.


Preventive diplomacy generates the need to employ any diplomatic means possible to restore peace even in escalating violent campaigns. Having a mediating team, unit or body to give a comprehensive approach to any insurgency becomes imperative. It works better with international assistance, particularly the muscular, “Jimmy Carter” categories and the small countries that would serve as regional support. For example, the International Centre for Ethno-Religious Mediation Centre, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) among others could serve the government in reducing the violent campaign of the sect. According to Erdmann, people often become angry and aggressive only after a lengthy period of being ignored or overlooked, and so listening to the concerns of parties raises the hope of a peaceful settlement. The quick introduction of the force was a hasty strategy in conflict prevention. Mohamed states that one of the core components of any mediation is inclusivity, by following international law and normative framework, reaching out to the person that can effect change. They (Boko haram) are not the best people, but they are needed in the conversation.


The Boko haram violent conflict has come with unimaginable losses of unprecedented proportions. There are still windows of opportunities for preventive diplomacy to take its course. It entails de-escalating the conflict through negotiations since the military defence has requested that attack, defence, and combat alone would not eradicate Boko haram. Any opportunity to attract the other side to a negotiation table is a feasible option. Preventive diplomacy firms up all through conflict circle, to turn the adversary from the fire of the guns to the place of the pen. The government should seek international support. There is still an opportunity to rewrite history in the right direction, build partnership and mutually beneficial option and end the killings.



Erdmann, Daniel. Mediation and Conflict Management. Accessed August 28, 2019.

Kalha, Ranjit Singh. The Dynamics of Preventive Diplomacy. New Dehli: KW Publishers Pvt Ltd, 2014.

Maiangwa, Benjamin. Nigeria united in grief; divided in response: Religious Terrorism, Boko Haram, and the dynamics of state response. Accessed October 23, 2019.

Mohamed, Kulmiye. The Role of Mediation in the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes with Ethnic and Religious Components. Accessed September 19, 2019.


Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

7 Responses

  1. Good work overall Steve. Keep it up. You could build up a stronger strategies in your ‘recom-discuss’ chatting a pathway for the framework…
    Best regards

    1. Many thanks, Fr. Basil for your kind comments and analytical thought. Your experience on the ground will help to expand more frontiers of opportunities.

  2. Good work my brother, looking forward to domesticating this in homes and institutions. God bless

  3. This is a wonderful and interesting work fr, keep doing the good work, we are solidly behind you.

  4. This is to acknowledge the input of my brother Priests. Thank you, Frs. Polit and Deshi. This will inspire more insights

  5. A very useful analysis of a moving situation since there are spillover impacts in northern Cameroon and in the Lake Chad area. I had posested earlier a piece on northen Nigeria “The long shadow of Usman Dan Fodio”. When an area is ignored for too long as was the case here, violence is often the result.

  6. Dear Rene,
    This is to acknowledge your comments with gratitude and to say that Nigeria the Nigerian people continues to ignore many other areas of attention. There is no coordinated response to the growing agitations and challenges the country faces and by extension the spillover to the region as you said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *